Guiding classical biological control of an invasive mealybug using integrative taxonomy
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Delottococcus aberiae De Lotto (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae) is a mealybug of Southern African origin that has recently been introduced into Eastern Spain. It causes severe distortions on young citrus fruits and represents a growing threat to Mediterranean citrus production. So far, biological control has proven unsatisfactory due to the absence of efficient natural enemies in Spain. Hence, the management of this pest currently relies only on chemical control. The introduction of natural enemies of D. aberiae from the native area of the pest represents a sustainable and economically viable alternative to reduce the risks linked to pesticide applications. Since biological control of mealybugs has been traditionally challenged by taxonomic misidentification, an intensive survey of Delottococcus spp. and their associated parasitoids in South Africa was required as a first step towards a classical biological control programme. Combining morphological and molecular characterization (integrative taxonomy) a total of nine mealybug species were identified in this study, including three species of Delottococcus. Different populations of D. aberiae were found on wild olive trees, in citrus orchards and on plants of Chrysanthemoides monilifera, showing intraspecific divergences according to their host plants. Interestingly, the invasive mealybug populations from Spanish orchards clustered together with the population on citrus from Limpopo Province (South Africa), sharing COI haplotypes. This result pointed to an optimum location to collect natural enemies against the invasive mealybug. A total of 14 parasitoid species were recovered from Delottococcus spp. and identified to genus and species level, by integrating morphological and molecular data. A parasitoid belonging to the genus Anagyrus, collected from D. aberiae in citrus orchards in Limpopo, is proposed here as a good biological control agent to be introduced into Spain.
- RESEARCH: CIB Associates